}

It Lives! Jewcy Part IV

Jewcy is now officially the Web site that absolutely refuses to die! When JDub announced that it was going to wind down one of the questions was what was going to happen to Jewcy, its Jewish lifestyle online magazine. You might recall that Jewcy was started by theater mogul Jon Steingart as a way to promote a Jewish themed party night at his Ars Nova theater space in Hell’s Kitchen. Eventually Jewcy got into apparel, selling things like their famous Shalom Motherfucker t-shirts and Jewcy thongs. In November 2006, under Senior Editor Tahl Rahz, Jewcy morphed into a Jewish online arts, culture and politics magazine, funded by Steingart, Michael Weiner and Michael Steinhardt. That arrangement lasted until February 2009 when all of Jewcy’s major backers pulled their money from the magazine because they felt it would never be profitable. The offices were vacated, Rahz left for greener pastures but the magazine limped along with a skeleton staff of volunteers under the leadership of Lilit Marcus. Eventually, a few months later the magazine was sold to JDub records for $1. Marcus left for a job with a mainstream online publication and Jason Diamond was hired to take over.

Happier Days: Rebecca Guber (6Points) Aaron Bisman (JDub) Daniel Septimus (MJL)

Under JDub’s helmsmanship, fiscal limitations did not allow for a regular stable of paid writers and, along with JDub’s fortunes, readership seems to have declined precipitously – by as much as 66% according to Quantcast. Also according to Quantcast, Jewcy’s readership seems to have been older. Readers aged 18-34 represented 32% of their traffic, readers aged 35-49: 27% and readers aged 49+: 33%. When JDub folded it was unclear what would happen to Jewcy.

What we do know is that prior to announcing the end of JDub, Jewcy and JDub staff had a meeting at the offices of My Jewish Learning, the online non-denominational Jewish learning Web site that also runs Jewniverse and Jewish parenting Web site kveller.com. Now comes unofficial word (no one from MJL got back to me before I wrote this post) that My Jewish Learning is indeed poised to take over Jewcy. No other details, such as the financial arrangements and additional philanthropic support are currently available. We do know that based on their latest filings with the IRS (2009) that MJL had $1,401,837 in revenue against $1,292,794 in expenses. CEO Daniel Septimus and CFO Jason Brzoska earned $133,000 each in salaries and benefits. Major funding came from the Edgar Bronfman Foundation ($870,000), Michael Steinhardt ($150,000), The United Jewish Appeal NY ($111,160), the Schusterman Foundation ($100,000) and smaller sums from numerous foundations ($116,000). They seem well funded by all the right people and are well placed in the online world. Their directly measured numbers from Quantcast show that Kveller.com gets an average of 25,929 unique visitors a month while MyJewishLearning.com gets an average of 88,500 monthly unique visits. These may seem like modest numbers but given the niche, the numbers are in fact pretty good and bode well for the future of Jewcy.

Many questions remain. Will MJL, who specialize in somewhat conventional content, be able to pull off running an arts, culture and politics Web zine edgy enough to attract a significant number of the Jewish 18-35 demographic? Will Jewcy be able to survive yet another rejuvenation under different management without it affecting the brand? And finally, will the Jewish philanthropic world, freshly stung by the massive disappointment of JDub’s closing, pony up enough cash to keep Jewcy running effectively? I guess we’ll find out.

But either way, you’ll always have Jewlicious.

Update: EJewishPhilanthropy reports “Aaron Bisman, President and CEO of JDub, tells eJP that no deal has yet been made for Jewcy’s future. “We are in conversation with several potential homes for Jewcy.””

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32 Comments

  1. Marty

    7/22/2011 at 2:40 am

    I can’t help but note a sort of mean streak throughout this post, a certain schadenfreude occasioned by the troubles of a competitor. The fact that the premature release of information might detrimentally affect ongoing negotiations probably doesn’t hurt either. You’re a real piece of work.

  2. ck

    7/22/2011 at 3:05 am

    Marty: It’s not like this is the first time we’ve ever written about JDub or Jewcy. You’re a little out of line there Marty. We never competed against JDub or Jewcy. We’re not even on the same playing field.

  3. Marty

    7/22/2011 at 4:45 am

    You’re being disingenuous ck – I have read about the funding they got in LA, funding that some say would have been better spent with the Jewlicious Festival. Also Jewcy and Jewlicious occupy the same space in terms of target audiences. Plus you’re no wet behind the ears debutante. You know or ought to have known that releasing this sort of information while negotiations are still going on messes up Jewcy’s negotiating position. I understand your desire to promote your brand but why do it at the expense of people who have worked hard and done excellent work on behalf of the Jewish people?

    • froylein

      7/22/2011 at 4:47 am

      why do it at the expense of people who have worked hard and done excellent work on behalf of the Jewish people?

      Barbra Streisand?

    • themiddle

      7/22/2011 at 7:42 am

      I’m sorry, but you have to be kidding. You are kidding, right? Please say you’re kidding. ck has spent years supporting those guys, even though they are in the same space and even though you can easily make the claim that Jewlicious has suffered because they exist. If anything, ck deserves praise for his supportive efforts, for always respecting them on these pages and for never going after their funding as if they were competitors. To see someone chide him after all that, and especially during a week where a knowledgeable commenter on our blog has indicated that they HAVE been working against us, is simply too ridiculous for words. What this site should have done all along, apparently, was to compete with them, try to secure funding, play the Jewish community game and if we didn’t, it is due to the fact that ck believes firmly that any organization that works to get the attention of young Jews deserves support (well, except for the anti-Israel ones). Maybe you should be chiding the guys from Jewcy and donors from the Jewish community right about now, Marty, not us and certainly not ck.

  4. Marty

    7/22/2011 at 9:50 am

    Oh bullshit themiddle. This was nothing less than a cynical ploy to put a wrench into the works and try to torpedo a deal that would keep Jewcy alive and preserve the legacy of JDub. This was born out of Jewlicious’ resentment at being passed over for grant after grant. This was an attempt to put Jewlicious in a better position for future grants where they would have one less competitor. Who are you trying to kid? No one wants to fund your rinky dink operation run out of some basement. The only people that read your site are what we call self-selected individuals who are hyper affiliated and trend more conservative politically and more orthodox religiously. You get no funding because you’re irrelevant and you are base. Deal with it.

    • Rabbi Yonah

      7/22/2011 at 12:00 pm

      Marty,

      Your accusations are totally baseless against Jewlicious. Although you are free to not like this or any other post and we will never edit or delete your comments.

      I understand that you may not like the tone of CK’s piece. However, everything is verifiable and accurate to the best of his abilities. The information is based on public sources. Are these organizations — and for that matter, the use of communal funds — golden calfs that cannot be discussed?

      One might perceive your comments as malicious, mean-spirited, based on conjecture, and potentially libelous.

      Jewlicious is not run out of a basement, not run by trolls, it is not orthodox leaning, and is not aimed at conservatives. In fact, the criticism I receive most from orthodox conservative Jews is “why do you have so much on your site that is anti-religious and so left wing.” The fact that I am an orthodox rabbi means nothing in terms of what is published here.

      Jewlicious has many voices, and is read by people all over the spectrum. That is why it is a great blog, why it is a great asset to the Jewish community, and why I and thousands of others support it.

    • themiddle

      7/22/2011 at 1:04 pm

      Haha. You WERE kidding. The pettiness and ill will of some people knows no bounds.

      Just for the record, Jewlicious isn’t run out of the basement, but considering the fact that we have scarce resources and still have had a bigger or similar impact on the Jewish community and the 18-34 demographic, not to mention on publications and organizations that use or emulate our work, than a number of well funded organizations, our outsized impact and our effectiveness are bound to annoy some people. Right, Marty?

      Face it, the only people who view running a lean, successful operation as “rinky dink” and “out of a basement” are the kind of people who have no shortage of resources. These are the kind of people, Marty, who have little shame squandering enormous resources given in good faith by the community on wasteful projects that bear little fruit. These are the kind of people, Marty, who think that when the community subsidizes conferences and events where they meet other self-selected, hyper-affiliated and well-paid “community professionals,” that those feel-good events are actually a testimony to success, not to the wastefulness of precious dollars that could fund important projects.

      Yup, when members of that tribe come here and tell us that we’re base, one has to laugh. Well, one has to cry first because ultimately the future of the Jewish community is threatened because of the mistakes made by this group who couldn’t find their desired demographic if it came over and patted them on their behind, but then one has to laugh at the smug self-righteousness of the well-paid in-the-loop guy as he talks down to the effective guy in the t-shirt and sandals who outshines him at every turn with no resources.

    • themiddle

      7/22/2011 at 1:10 pm

      By the way, Marty, where are you located?

      • froylein

        7/22/2011 at 1:46 pm

        Middle, click on his IP in the dashboard comment section for an amusing insight.

        • themiddle

          7/22/2011 at 2:14 pm

          That first email address is very weird.

  5. ck

    7/22/2011 at 10:32 am

    To quote Aaron Bisman: please don’t feed the trolls

  6. bizzed off

    7/22/2011 at 10:32 am

    “No one wants to fund your rinky dink operation run out of some basement.”

    Of course not, that would be too real. What is needed is full-time staff from the day school track that speaks to other day school kids and pretend that is reaching anyone else.

    Consummate Jewish professionals speak to no one but each other.

  7. Rabbi Yonah

    7/22/2011 at 11:40 am

    Who else is being approached to run Jewcy. And while I think that one might think that there is some kind of mean spiritedness to this post, I think that in the context of discussing Jewcy’s future it is relevant. There are limited communal dollars in this recession.

  8. Let's say it like it is...

    7/22/2011 at 1:22 pm

    Dan Septimus and Aaron Bisman service the unaffiliated the way South Bronx streetwalkers service Upper East Side virgins.

    That just isn’t the market that is buying their services and it never will be.

    Bisman will go one to run some Jewish non prof, he will NEVER go into the music business just as he will never service unaffilaited Jews, because he was bred to be a Jewish professional preaching to the choir. He should go to JTS and become a Conservative rabbi and suck off the communal tit in a honest and honorable fashion.

  9. banana

    7/23/2011 at 4:59 am

    What’s that word I’m looking for… oh right – “transparency.” That’s one of the words that these young rebel critics of big Jewish organizations always throw around when they talk about how the Jewish community doesn’t serve young Jews. It’s because all these important decisions are being made behind closed doors and there’s no chance for feedback from the people affected. Often the decisions made without scrutiny end up being totally stupid. So JDub’s Aaron Bisman remains tight lipped and you guys are trolls. Nice. Jewschool’s co-Publisher Kungfujew18 on twitter says that this post represents an attempt to cannibalize Jewcy’s market share, reflecting the nastiness coming from commenter Marty. Seems like JDub and Jewcy’s “supporters” have become what they were designed to challenge – Jewish community suck ups ruled by all kinds of concerns. least of which are the best interests of their supposed constituents. Is it any wonder they failed? Is it any wonder the big Federations and Foundations are going to keep funding these groups anyway? They’re just like the Junior varsity version of the big boys. Watch for Bisman to become even further ensconced within the loving but more and more irrelevant folds of Big Jew Inc. while my friends and I become more and more alienated from a Jewish community that talks at us and not to us. Now I have to dig up a banana as I seem to be craving potassium … conclusion? Who cares.

    • themiddle

      7/23/2011 at 6:12 am

      Banana, KFJ18 supports and actually strongly advocates for J Street, so I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s impossible to rely on his sound judgment. 😉

      As for the rest of it, I got lost and bored halfway through your philosophical treatise and went to the kitchen to eat a banana. Thanks for the idea.

    • ck

      7/23/2011 at 1:55 pm

      Like TM, I went and got a banana. Unlike him, I read your post. I’m sorry that Mr. Bisman thinks this post represents trollery. I am also sorry that KungFuJew18 who is usually at least even tempered and reasonable feels that this post seeks to cannibalize Jewcy (!!!) – how would that even work? The rest of your post merits consideration but, well, I kinda doubt anyone that should be taking your message to heart is going to read it. But I appreciate the effort anyway.

  10. froylein

    7/23/2011 at 7:34 am

    Can anybody actually admit that the issue is about livelihoods and not putting out quality content?

    May I ask, if Jewlicious received as generous funding as others do and was able to pay its contributors, would those that throw a fit over CK’s post now not brownnose him to get an easy, paid-for contributing job on here?
    Afterall, as Brecht said, “Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral.” (= Food comes first, then comes morale.)
    [If you don’t know Brecht and where that line is taken from, you’re about as leftist as your grandma let you be.]

    In that light, it might even be an advantage of Jewlicious that its contributors don’t make any money from it; I’ve already found it bothersome enough when contributors tried to use Jewlicious to pimp their (not necessarily qualified or even good) attempts at making money.

    • themiddle

      7/23/2011 at 2:24 pm

      Somebody tried to make money from posting here? Who? When?

      Second, I strongly disagree with Froylein. This notion of pure, free writing means limitations while sites where people are paid are able to dedicate more time to conceiving, researching and writing their content. They can also produce more content and accompany it with graphics or photos that cost us more unpaid time. I take pride in the fact that for years we’ve still put out some interesting and high quality content, but there could have been more and we could have expanded our reach and our writing roster had we gotten the resources.

      • froylein

        7/23/2011 at 2:32 pm

        Middle, I’ll tell you who and when via e-mail.

        while sites where people are paid are able to dedicate more time to conceiving, researching and writing their content.

        Which has made me wonder why a lot of that writing is mediocre at best. You’d think that if they already paid people for writing, they’d hire people that knew how to write and to conduct research.

  11. I don't get it

    7/24/2011 at 8:57 am

    According to the stats on Quantcast that you linked to, the largest section 38% of My Jewish Learning’s readership is over 50.

    How exactly are they going to lower Jewcy’s already older than targeted readership? Are they really going to get funded to do this? Are communal leaders really too lazy or ignorant to click to Quantcast? Or is this really about yet more feeble attempts to “control the message”?

    • ck

      7/24/2011 at 9:56 am

      I don’t think the idea is that MJL will funnel their readers to Jewcy! Just that MJL has the experience and expertise to run Jewcy. They’ll then hire whatever editors or writers they need and hit up the regular funding suspects for the money to pay for it. When asked why they need to fund them, MJL will diminish the reach of sites like Heeb and ours as proof that unaffiliated young Jews desperately need a well funded Jewcy.

      😉

      *PLEASE NOTE* The smiley face was meant to represent sarcasm. Jeepers.

  12. I don't get it

    7/24/2011 at 11:13 am

    Well if so do you think My Jewish Learning will try to hide the demographic reality of Jewcy the way JDub tried to? http://www.quantcast.com/jewcy.com

    • ck

      7/24/2011 at 12:54 pm

      Wo there! I don’t think they tried to hide anything per se. They just repeated what they were told and made selective use of stats – like when they said that they had more traffic than Jewlicious and Heeb combined. Then they used Quantcast (our traffic was not being directly measured) and never asked me or anyone at Heeb AFAIK what our traffic was. But whatever. I can’t expect funders to be THAT detail oriented. It’s all good. I don’t want bitterness. I hope Jewcy finds a good home with MJL or whoever. At least it’ll keep us on our toes…

  13. SharonJ

    7/24/2011 at 1:00 pm

    Why do they dislike u guys so much? Maybe you did something to deserve it? There are always two sides to the story.

    • themiddle

      7/24/2011 at 2:31 pm

      We’re more handsome.They’re bitterly jealous.

      • froylein

        7/24/2011 at 2:49 pm

        Middle’s taking the words out of my fingers.

  14. Ungrateful

    7/26/2011 at 1:36 pm

    JDub gave their bands to Jewlicious at a cut rate in order to support you, and this is the thanks they get.

    • themiddle

      7/26/2011 at 4:36 pm

      Um, there is nothing wrong with this post, despite the troll’s insinuations. It’s informational and its public.

      But while you’re here, how about you tell us whether Jewcy and/or JDub, which have always been supported on this site, badmouthed or spoke ill of Jewlicious, particularly when fundraising?

    • themiddle

      7/26/2011 at 4:47 pm

      Actually, I just looked up your IP address on our site. You last comment here was made on a post that Jewlicious published trying to help Jewcy with their fundraising.

      At that time you wrote,

      This week I won a Jewcy 100 mention, and now I am totally Jewced! My life has changed forever. And they assured my at Jewcy that it this nothing to do with the fact that I am a JDub partner, so don’t think that, because that isn’t why for any of the fifty of us where that just happens to be the case.

      Sincerely,

      JDub partner who received a Jewcy 100 mention (could be one of fifty people, so my anonymity is protected)

      Sorry some of you are jealous, but maybe you should do something important with your lives. Like work with JDub.

      I won’t reveal who you are, but in light of the fact that you were aware that Jewlicious tried to help Jewcy, and even though in the lengthy discussion that follows that post accusations about Jewcy trying to undermine Jewlicious are already present, you can see that ck continued to stand behind Jewcy. In light of that and since this post is not critical of Jewcy, it seems that your “ungrateful” comment is disingenuous at best.

  15. andrew

    8/21/2012 at 2:42 pm

    Trying to get a hold of CK. Can you email me direct?
    Thanks.

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